We know that the church is called to be a witness to Christ. To what extent is the church today a credible witness to Christ?
The church is called to attest the truth of the Gospel to the world. This testimony, however, stands related to the fact that even in this world the church is a sign of the destiny of the human race to be renewed in the future of God’s kingdom as a fellowship in freedom, justice and peace. The more the church — and the churches as a part of Christianity as a whole — actually show themselves to be such a sign to human eyes, the greater will be their authority among us.
— Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology (Volume 3) “Foreword” p xv.
Such witness is going on at the local level: here and there in churches that are faithfully seeking to live out their faith. They don’t make the news (maybe), but their life together is showing the world what freedom, justice and peace can mean — not as a political position, but as a lived-out reality.
But, for many people, the church has lost it’s chance to be an authentic witness.
In the book of Acts the church is described this way: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47 NRSV).
I remember, many years ago, standing outside the door of one of the churches I served — a church that had gained a very poor reputation in the community — praying that God would, once again, restore favor to God’s people. But, I guess that can’t happen until more and more of God’s people begin to actually live out the principles of God’s Kingdom.
A few weeks ago, I was at Sunday worship at the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville. I was by myself (Robin was working that morning) and I chose to spend the time in the Prayer Room. I was drawn to this particular prayer as my focus:
Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Universal Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.